Tuesday, 31 March 2020

The ‘Comerford Crown’ is
lost in France, but it inspired
a symbol of Irish identity

The ‘Comerford Crown’ or ‘Ikerrin Crown’ … bought by Joseph Comerford in 1692 and later kept in his château in Anglure

Patrick Comerford

Online discussions on recent days about anemones, poppies, the Anemone Coronaria, the relics of Saint Corona, the patron saint of resisting all epidemics, in Aachen Cathedral, and the treasures of Torah crowns in synagogues throughout Europe, have all been prompted by the choice of the word corona for the Corona virus.

The word cornona means ‘crown,’ and the corona viruses, including Covid-19, have been given their name because of the crown-like spikes on their surface, or because scientists thought they resembled the corona of the sun in an eclipse.

But all these online discussions also set my wondering during idle moments in recent evenings about the fate of the ‘Comerford Crown.’

The ‘Comerford Crown’ or ‘Ikerrin Crown’ is a long-lost archaeological artefact probably dating from the Bronze Age that was owned by the Comerford Family from its discovery in 1692 in Ireland. It was later taken by Joseph Comerford, Marquis d’Anglure and soi-disant Baron of Danganmore from Ireland to his château in the Champagne region, and may have been lost by the family during the Reign of Terror in the aftermath of the French Revolution.

Château d’Anglure … it gave Joseph Comerford an estate and a French title

Joseph Comerford is one of the most enigmatic members of the family. His origins and place in the family tree have been obscured by his own obfuscation: the family pedigree he registered in Dublin was a self-serving exercise in vanity, aimed at asserting his claim to nobility that would underpin the French aristocratic title he acquired when he bought a château and petit domain in Champagne. The plaques he erected in the Comerford chapel in Saint Mary’s Parish Church, Callan, Co Kilkenny, and the Comberford Chapel in Saint Editha’s Parish Church, Tamworth, were proud but vain efforts to link the Comerford family in Co Kilkenny with the Comberford family of Comberford Hall in the Lichfield and Tamworth area of Staffordshire.

Although Joseph Comerford claimed on these monuments that his family had been brought low by the ravages of civil wars in Ireland and in England, he appears to have remained in Ireland for some years after the defeat of the Jacobites in the 1690s, without any obvious social, political or financial disadvantage. While he eagerly craved acceptance in French aristocratic circles, the title he acquired has never continued in use in the Comerford family.

Joseph Comerford, the eldest son of Edward Comerford of Clonmel, was sworn a freeman of the City of Waterford, on 10 December 1686. He subsequently was commissioned a captain in the Earl of Tyrone’s regiment of foot, a Waterford regiment (despite its name) in the army of James II.

However, despite the terms of the Treaty of Limerick following the defeat of the Jacobite cause, Joseph Comerford was still living in Ireland in 1692. In that year, he bought the ‘Ikerrin Crown,’ an encased gold cap or crown weighing about 5 oz, that was discovered 10 ft underground at the Devil’s Bit, Co Tipperary, by turf-cutters, and he saved it from being melted down.

Soon after, Joseph moved to France, and as Joseph de Comerford of Clonmel, he received letters of naturalisation in France in January 1711. In exile in France, he was made a Chevalier of St Louis, bought the Anglure estate on the banks of the River Aule in Champagne, including the Château d’Anglure, and claimed the title of Marquis d’Anglure. Joseph Comerford may be the Baron d’Enguemore who appears in Reitstrap’s Armorial.

However, he returned to Ireland at the beginning of the 18th century, when he was living in Cork, and he had moved to Dublin by April 1724, when he registered a fanciful family pedigree at the Ulster Office of Arms in Dublin Castle.

At this time, or soon after, Joseph Comerford probably erected the monument to his great-grandfather, Thomas Comerford, in Saint Mary’s Church, Callan, Co Killenny, and the plaque in the Comberford Chapel in Tamworth, Staffordshire, which is dated 1725.

The plaque erected by Joseph Comerford in the Comberford Chapel in the North Transept of Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Joseph Comerford returned to France soon after, and on 28 November 1725, as Joseph de Comerford, he gave the Anglure estate, including ‘the grounds and seigniories of Mesnil and Granges,’ 3 km west of Anglure, to his nephew, Louis Luc de Comerford.

When he died in 1729, Joseph Comerford’s will was proved in Paris. Another will, dated 19 May 1729, went to probate in Dublin that year. He was buried in the chapel at the Château d’Anglure not under the title of Marquis d’Anglure but as Baron d’Anglure et Dangermore.

Joseph Comerford and his wife Margaret (née Browne) had an only daughter, Jane Barbara. But there was no male heir to inherit his claims and titles. Instead, he designated his brother, Captain Luc Luke Comerford as his heir. In default of male heirs, Joseph settled his estates in Champagne on the heirs male of his brother Luke Comerford, and in default of such heirs male on his kinsman, Major-General John Comerford, and his male issue.

Captain Louis-Luc Comerford of Sézanne, north of Anglure, became Seigneur d’Anglure as heir to his uncle Joseph. He appears to have sold the Anglure title and estate in the mid-18th century. According to an advertisement dated 12 June 1752, a quarter of a century after Joseph Comerford’s death, Anglure was associated with the title of a barony from ‘time out of memory’ and with the title of Marquis d’Anglure which was created in 1657.

Louis-Luc de Comerford, who was financially ruined, sold his estates, including Anglure, Mesnil and Granges-sur-Aube, and Belle-Assise, to Jean de Cabanel and retired to Sézanne, north of Anglure, where he lived in dire poverty.

After Louis-Luc Comerford died, his next brother, Captain Pierre-Edouard Comerford, used the title of Baron Dangermore, but he made no pretensions to the Anglure titles. This branch of the Comerford family survived into the early 19th century, but died out in 1813 with the death of Captain Joseph-Alexandre-Antoine Comerford (1757-1813).

Since then, the titles have never been assumed or claimed by any member of the family. But what happened to the ‘Comerford Crown’ that Joseph Comerford has saved from being melted down and had been taken by him to Anglure?

The eventual fate of the ‘Comerford Crown’ remains a mystery. The crown appears to have survived in safe hands for long time after Joseph’s death. In his Histoire d’Irlande (1758), the Abbé MacGeoghegan, suggested it was still preserved in Anglure.

Some accounts say the crown may have been melted down for its intrinsic value during the Reign of Terror in 1793.

However, others claimed that the crown had survived the Reign of Terror. A contributor to the Dublin Penny Journal in August 1832 claimed that the crown was then still preserved in the Château d’Anglure. However, Dr Czernicki, whose father bought the Château d’Anglure in 1832 from a Monsieur Tissandier, said: ‘I never heard anyone speak about the piece of antiquity that you refer to.’

The ‘Comerford Crown’ is not the only Bronze Age ‘hat’ recorded in Ireland. In the late 17th century, a second, similar gold crown or vessel was found nearby at the Bog of Cullen, Co Tipperary. Known locally as the Golden Bog, due to the sheer quantity of artefacts recovered from its depths in the 17th and 18th centuries, this morass appears to have been an important ritual site in the Late Bronze Age.

Unfortunately, very few of the objects found in the bog have survived to the present day and the gold ‘crown’ is no different. It was bought in 1744 by a Limerick jeweller, Joseph Kinshalloe, who melted down the artefact to produce 6 ounces worth of gold. Another gold ‘crown’, described rather unusually as shaped like a shell, was also discovered at Kilpeacon, Co Limerick, in 1821. Regrettably, this object was melted down too for bullion.

The original function of these elaborate gold objects remains uncertain. If they were indeed crowns, then they were probably worn with an inner head-dress or lining that has not survived. They probably belonged to people of high status who wore them during specific ceremonies or rituals.

Another theory suggests ‘hats’ like these adorned wooden statutes or totems that may have depicted local deities. But it has also been argued that these precious items are not in fact crowns, but instead gold bowls or vessels, as with some of the artefacts from the Eberswalde hoard in Germany, which appear too small to fit a human head.

The ‘Comerford Crown’ inspired the design of the ‘Milesian Crown’ on the frontispiece to Dermod O’Connor’s translation of Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eirinn in 1723. This crown was based on the ‘Comerford Crown,’ and it was used to represent the crown of the provincial kings of Ireland.

Professor Elizabeth FitzPatrick of NUI Galway suggests that because the ‘Comerford Crown’ was found in Munster it inspired the 18th century illustrator of Brian Bóruma ‘to add it to the Munster king’s royal paraphernalia’. Scholars point how that it is notable that the ‘Comerford Crown,’ and not the British crown, was placed above the harp in this image.

Over three decades later, the Abbé MacGeoghegan, James MacGeoghegan (1702-1763), in his Histoire d’Irlande (1758), described this gold crown as being in the shape of a bonnet, and added: ‘This curious part of antiquity was sold to Joseph Comerford and must be preserved in the Castle of Anglure, where he had bought the estate.’

By the early 19th century, the shamrock and the harp were the most widely used symbols of Irish identity. The Galway historian, Dr Emily Cullen of NUI Galway, shows how the harp came to be fused with the imperial crown of England, the cap of liberty, the sunburst and the ‘Comerford Crown’ or ‘Milesian Crown’ as one of the principal emblems of Irish identity.*

This ‘Milesian Crown,’ based on the ‘Comerford Crown,’ was fused with the harp in an emblem used in 1840 to illustrate the frontispiece to Edward Bunting’s third edition of The Ancient Music of Ireland. This frontispiece consolidated the iconic appeal of the Milesian Crown.

Bunting’s emblem of the ‘Milesian Crown’ is based on the 1723 illustration in Dermod O’Connor’s translation of Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Eirinn, which, in turn, is based on the ‘Comerford Crown.’

While Bunting dedicated this third edition to Queen Victoria, he inserted the Milesian Crown above the harp with the symbol of a wakened nationalism, the sunburst, as a declaration of a separate Irish feudal tradition. Dr Cullen points out that instead of ambiguously employing the radiated ‘Irish crown’ above the harp, Bunting purposefully differentiated the provincial Irish crown from that of the British one, through a distinctive design.

Three years after Bunting’s use of the ‘Comerford Crown,’ the ‘Comerford Crown’ informed the design in 1843 of Daniel O’Connell’s green velvet ‘Repeal Cap,’ which played a crucial iconic role in the construction of his public image.

The artists John Hogan and Henry MacManus used the ‘Comerford Crown’ to design the green velvet ‘Milesian cap’ or ‘cap of liberty’ that they presented to Daniel O’Connell at the ‘monster meeting’ on the Rath of Mullaghmast, near Athy, Co Kildare, in 1843. An advertisement in The Nation for a copy of the cap, which was mass-produced for sale, pointed out, it was modelled upon ‘the old Milesian Crown of Gold, dug up AD 1692, at Barnanely, of the Devil’s Bit, County Tipperary, and brought to France by Joseph Comerford, Esq., afterward Marquis of Anglure in Champagne.’

A year later, this harp and crown became the symbol of Ireland on the membership card of Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Association of 1844. On that card, the harp is surrounded by the sunburst and by Irish political figures including Henry Grattan, Henry Flood, Patrick Sarsfield, Owen Roe O’Neill, Brian Boru and Ollamh Fodhla.

Ollamh Fodhla, reputedly the first Milesian king of Ireland, is wearing the ‘Comerford Crown’ or ‘Milesian Crown’ which is also placed beneath the harp in the central image.

The symbols of Ireland in the centre include a sword, shield, wreath of shamrock and the Milesian Crown. Saint Patrick’s head forms the stem of the device, while a smaller shamrock is inscribed ‘Remember 1782,’ a reference to Grattan’s Parliament.

O’Connell’s followers were deeply moved by the idea of an indigenous Milesian Crown. It came to represent a modern-day Irish crown and was symptomatic of its wearer’s brazen audacity. Throughout the mid to late 1840s, Daniel O’Connell was frequently depicted a mocking way in Punch wearing this Milesian Crown.

O’Connor’s illustration of the ‘Comerford Crown’ in 1723 also gave rise to sporadic curiosity about the artefact on the pages of journals in the 19th century. The Dublin Penny Journal claimed the crown was ‘perfectly eastern’ in its ‘style and workmanship’ and ‘unlike everything of the kind used in Europe within historic times.’

Daniel O’Connell wearing the ‘Milesian Crown’ in an image at the west door of Saint James’s Church, Dublin, designed in 1844 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

O’Connell is depicted wearing the crown in an image on the west door of Saint James’s Church, Dublin, designed by Patrick Byrne in 1844. The crown also appears on a head of Brian Boru on the walls of the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle, and as a label stop in the Church of the Holy Cross in Charleville, Co Cork, designed by Maurice A Hennessy in 1898.

It is surprising, then, that the ‘Comerford Crown’ did not appear in the motifs designed for the Irish House on the corner of Winetavern Street and Wood Quay, or the Oarsman in Ringsend, two Dublin pubs designed in the 1890s by James Comerford (1817-1902), when his other depictions include Round Towers, Irish wolfhounds, Erin with a stingless harp, and political figures such as Grattan, Flood and O’Connell.

Dr Cullen argues that the pairing of the Irish harp emblem with the Milesian Crown is a distinctive and neglected development in 19th century iconic discourses. She adds, ‘It is important, however, to update the Comerford Crown story for a variety of reasons, not least because the authority of this crown was challenged by some as just a decorative vessel.’

She points out that the use of the ‘Comerford Crown’ as a symbol to stand in for the history of a provincial Irish king represents ‘an attempted transfer of authority to an indigenous Irish crown, a separate iconographic tradition and, ultimately, the dilution of authority of the British Crown.’

In her conclusions, she says, ‘The fact that there is still a degree of uncertainty about the functions of the Comerford Crown underlines the fact that the harp was juxtaposed with equivocal symbols and, thereby, implicated in speculative narratives that were rendered no less powerful for their ambivalence. Unlike, however, the ‘missing’ Comerford Crown, long transferred to Anglure in France, the Irish harp retains its symbolic authority.’

A crowned Brian Boru on the east wall of the Chapel Royal in Dublin Castle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Further Reading:

* Emily Cullen, ‘From the Comerford Crown to the Repeal Cap: Fusing the Irish harp symbol with eastern promise in the nineteenth century,’ in Visual Material and Print Culture in Nineteenth-Century Ireland, ed Ciara Breathnach and Catherine Lawless (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), pp 59-72.

Praying through Lent with
USPG (35): 31 March 2020

The walls of the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague are filled with the names and dates of birth and death of 78,000 Jews from the Czech Republic and Slovakia who were murdered in the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

This week is traditionally known as Passion Week or the first week of Passiontide, and we are in the last two weeks of Lent.

Throughout Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (29 March to 4 April 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary takes as its theme: ‘It is our duty to protect God’s Creation’ – Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean. This theme is introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Tuesday 31 March 2020:

Let us pray for the Anglican Church in the Province of the Indian Ocean, and its role in mitigating the effects of climate change in the region.

Readings: Numbers 21: 4-9; Psalm 102: 1-3, 16-23; John 8: 21-30.

The Collect:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

Monday, 30 March 2020

Among all the coronas and
crowns, ‘the crown of a good
name outweighs them all’

A Torah crown on display in the Spanish Synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I confused some colourful anemones outside the back door at the weekend with poppies. I grew up without learning the names of flowers and trees, and so a discussion followed on social media, with someone pointing out that Anemone Coronaria is the full name for the Poppy Anemone.

It is amazing how the name Corona seems to be popping up in so many conversations and news reports these days, from talking about anemones and poppies to reports about the relics in Aachen Cathedral of Saint Corona, the patron saint of resisting all epidemics.

The word corona means ‘crown’ – and the corona viruses, including Covid-19, get their name because of the crown-like spikes on their surface, or because scientists thought they resembled the corona of the sun in an eclipse.

In Jewish tradition, the Crown or Keter (כֶּתֶר) symbolises royalty, power and honour.

In Exodus Rabbah (שמות רבה, Shemot Rabbah), the midrash to Exodus, it says, ‘There are three crowns – the crown of royalty, the crown of priesthood and the crown of Torah. The crown of royalty – this is the shulhan (table) ... The crown of priesthood – this this is the mizbe’ah (altar) ... And the crown of Torah – this is the aron (ark) (Exodus Rabbah, Chapter 34).

The table represents abundance and wealth, and therefore the crown is considered a ‘crown of royalty.’ The altar represents the work in the Temple, and for this reason its crown is termed the ‘crown of priesthood.’ The crown on the ark that holds the Tablets of the Covenant – the Torah – is the ‘crown of Torah.’

A different Midrash teaches there is a fundamental difference between the first two crowns and the third. The first two – royalty and priesthood – are meant for a specific tribe. Not every person can be a king, and not everyone who wants to can serve as a priest. However, the third crown, the crown of Torah, is not earmarked for a specific group or tribe:

‘Three crowns are: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of royalty. The crown of priesthood – Aaron merited and took; the crown of royalty – David merited and took; the crown of Torah is there for the generations, and whoever merits the Torah, it is as though he merited all three’ (Ecclesiastes Rabbah, Chapter 7).

The Pirkei Avot or the Ethics of the Fathers says there are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. ‘But the crown of a good name outweighs them all’ (Ethics of the Fathers 4: 13).

A crown flanked with lions on a Torah Scroll decorative plate in the Jewish Museum in Vienna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

And so, the crown became a frequent motif in Jewish ritual art, particularly associated with the Torah and the Ark, but also on gravestones.

The crown is often flanked by a pair of lions or placed over a depiction of the Ten Commandments and is frequently seen decorating Torah scrolls in a synagogue, with crown on the mantles covering the Torah, including elaborate silver crowns and breastplates, decorative crowns in the symbolism of the Aron haKodesh or Holy Ark holding the Torah scrolls and crowns on the parochet (פרוכת), symbolising the curtain that covered the Ark of the Covenant (see Exodus 40: 21).

In the Tabernacle, the ark for the Tablets of the Covenant, the altar for incense and the table on which the lehem hapanim (showbread) was placed, were decorated with a crown-like golden design on their upper part.

The renaissance ark in Remu’h Synagogue in Kraków is one of the earliest surviving examples of the use of a crown in the design of the Holy Ark (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

To counter today’s negative association of the word corona with the Corona virus, Jewish Heritage Europe has started posting images from a number of countries showing uplifting ways in which the Crown is used in Jewish ritual art HERE.

JHE quotes Professor Ilia M Rodov of Bar Ilan University, who says the Torah crown symbolises ‘the Torah’s uppermost authority, glory and value.’ He identifies early use of images of the Crown with the Torah in the Ark of the Remu’h Synagogue in Krakow, which dates from the 1550s. He says this is ‘presumed to be the first Renaissance Ark in Poland.’

He says the earliest images of the crown in association with Torah come from Renaissance Italy, and says the first material testimony to a crown image in synagogue art comes from the ark dating from 1522 or 1523 from the Scuola Catalana synagogue in Rome, which no longer exists.

The image of a crown is also used on gravestones, declaring the dead person as honourable person or the head of a family. The crown on gravestones is often flanked by a pair of animals such as lions, or combined with other symbols such as the hands of blessing denoting a member of the priestly tribe of Cohanim.

In my visits to synagogues, museums and graveyards throughout these islands and across Europe, I have often photographed crowns on Holy Arks, Torah curtains and Torah mantles, and on graves and memorials.

This is my selection of a dozen of these photographs, from cities in over half a dozen countries (Dublin, Berlin, Bratislava, Corfu, Krakow, Porto, Prague, Thessaloniki, Venice and Vienna).

1, Dublin:

A Torah Mantle from Adelaide Road Synagogue, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This Torah mantle, from the Adelaide Road Synagogue, is now in the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin.

2, Berlin:

A crown (far right) is one of the symbols on the ‘Block of Women’ memorial on Rosenstraße (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The sculpture Block der Frauen (‘Women’s Block’), a memorial to the women’s uprising in Berlin 1943, was carved by Ingeborg Hunzinger and dedicated in 1995.

This memorial in a small park on Rosenstraße stands on the former site of the Old Synagogue, which was destroyed during World War II. Other symbols include the Menorah, the Lion of Judah, a bunch of grapes, and hands raised in the priestly blessing.

3, Prague:

The Spanish Synagogue in Prague is the newest synagogue in the Jewish Town in the Czech capital. But it stands on the site of the oldest synagogue in Prague, the ‘Old School’ or Altschule.

A Torah crown on display in the ‘Spanish Synagogue’ in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, Vienna:

A Torah crown on display in the Jewish Museum in Vienna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The stories of Vienna’s Jewish communities are told in the exhibits in the Jewish Museum in its two locations, at the Palais Eskeles on Dorotheergasse and in the Misrachi-Haus in Judenplatz.

5, Thessaloniki:

A crown on the ‘parochet’ or curtain on the Holy Ark in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Monasterioton Synagogue on Syngrou Street is the only surviving, pre-war working synagogue in Thessaloniki in northern Greece.

6, Venice:

A decorative breastplate for a Torah scroll in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Ghetto in Venice the oldest and the original ghetto in Europe.

Today the Jewish Community in Venice numbers about 450. Few of these people actually live in the Ghetto, but many return to the Ghetto for religious services in the two synagogues that are still used – the other three synagogues are open for guided tours organised through the Jewish Community Museum.

7, Bratislava:

A crown on a ‘parochet’ from a synagogue in Slovakia in the Museum of Jewish Culture in Bratislava (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bratislava has been an important centre of Jewish life and education for centuries. The Museum of Jewish Culture is on Židovská Street.

8, Porto:

A crown on the ‘parochet’ in the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in Porto in Portugal (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue in the northern suburbs of Porto, Portugal’s second city, was inaugurated in 1938. It is the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in Europe.

9, Corfu:

A crown on the ‘parochet’ in the synagogue in Corfu in Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

La Scuola Greca Synagogue, built in the 18th century and still standing in what was once the ‘Jewish Ghetto’ in Corfu, is the only surviving synagogue on this Greek island.

10, Chatam Sofer Memorial, Bratislava:

A crown flanked by lions on one of the surviving memorials in the Chatam Sofer Memorial in Bratislava (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Chatam Sofer Memorial is the sole remaining part of the centuries-old Jewish cemetery that was destroyed in 1943 when a nearby tunnel was constructed.

Only the most important section of the cemetery, with 23 graves surrounding the Chatam Sofer’s tomb, was preserved as an underground compound.

11, Krakow:

A crown above hands in the priestly blessing on the grave of a cohen in Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The synagogues of Kraków represent virtually all the European architectural styles, including the Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, and the Modernist. Three of these synagogues are still active, some also serve as houses of prayer, and the district also has two Jewish cemeteries.

Before the Nazi German invasion of Poland, Kraków had a Jewish community of 60,000-80,000 people in a city with a population of 237,000, and at the time there were at least 90 Jewish prayer houses.

12: Vienna:

A crown on a Sephardic Torah mantle in the Jewish Museum in Vienna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One of the many synagogues lost during the horrors of Kristallnacht and the Holocaust following the Nazi annexation of Austria was the Sephardic synagogue in Vienna. With it, the story of the Sephardic community in Vienna and their unique traditions were destroyed.

All this set me to wondering again about the fate of the ‘Comerford Crown’ brought by Joseph Comerford from Co Tipperary to his chateau at Anglure in France and how it influenced Irish culture and symbolisms of Irish identity.

But more about that later this week, hopefully.

A Torah Mantle from the Bethaus Montefiore or Montefiore Prayer House in the Jewish Museum on Dorotheergasse in Vienna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying through Lent with
USPG (34): 30 March 2020

A Yellow Star in the Holocaust exhibits in the Spanish Synagogue in Pragye (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

This week is traditionally known as Passion Week or the first week of Passiontide, which brings us into the last two weeks of Lent.

Throughout Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (29 March to 4 April 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary takes as its theme: ‘It is our duty to protect God’s Creation’ – Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean. This theme is introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday morning.

Monday 30 March 2020:

Lord, we thank you for the progress made in the Seychelles to meet its target towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

Readings: Susanna 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 [or 41b-62] or Joshua 2: 1-14; Psalm 23; John 8: 1-11.

The Collect:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Sunday intercessions
on Passion Sunday

‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ (Ezekiel 37: 3) … skulls in the ossuary in Arkadi Monastery from a battle in 1866 during the Turkish occupation of Crete, when hundreds of people died (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

These intercessions were prepared for use this morning at the United Group Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry, but the churches have been closed temporarily because of the Covid-19 or Corona Virus pandemic:

Let us pray on this Passion Sunday:

Lord God, our Heavenly Father,
we hear your promise:
‘I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live’ (Ezekiel 37: 5)

Out of the depths, we cry to you, O Lord (Psalm 130: 1):

We pray this morning for people living in fear …
in fear of the Corona virus …
in fear for their health …
in fear for their families …
in fear of what the future brings …
in fear of hunger and hatred …

We pray for people who people who are not at home …
for refugees and those who cannot return home …
for the homeless, and those in hostels, direct provision, and refugee camps …
for all in hospitals or who are isolated …
for families finding it difficult to work at home, to stay at home …
to care for and school children at home …

We pray for the nations of the world in this time of crisis,
for our own country, Ireland north and south …
for those bearing the responsibility of government …
for those working in frontline services …
and for those who keep working on essential supply lines …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ,
you tell us:

‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live’ (John 11: 25):

We pray for the Church,
that as the Church we may be faithful to the call
to be a mother Church,
gathering God’s children together,
caring for them and nurturing them.

We pray for churches that are closed this morning,
that the hearts of the people may remain open
to the love of God, and to the love of others.

In the Church of Ireland,
we pray this month for
the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe and Bishop Andrew Forster.

We pray for our Bishop Kenneth,
we pray for our neighbouring parishes
in Limerick, Adare and Tralee,
their parishioners and people,
their priests: Jim, Phyllis, Liz, and Niall,
that we may grow closer together
in mission, ministry and hospitality.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Anglican Communion,
for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby,
for those who are disappointed
that the Lambeth Conference has been postponed.
In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the diocesan Children’s Ministry Network representative,
the Revd Jane Galbraith,
and all engaged in children’s ministry in our dioceses.

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
we ‘wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy’ (Psalm 130: 6):
that the Lord will put the Spirit within us so that we shall live (Ezekiel 37: 14)

We pray for ourselves and for our needs,
for healing, restoration and health,
in body, mind and spirit.

We pray for the needs of one another,
for those who are alone and lonely …
for those who travel …
for those who are sick, at home or in hospital …
Alan ... Ajay … Charles …
Lorraine … James …
Niall … Linda ... Basil …

We pray for those who grieve …
for those who remember loved ones …
May their memory be a blessing to us.

We pray for those who have broken hearts …
for those who live with disappointment …

We pray for all who are to be baptised,
We pray for all preparing to be married,
We pray for those who are about to die …

We pray for those who have asked for our prayers …
for those we have offered to pray for …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer on this Sunday, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, Passion Sunday,
in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG,
United Society Partners in the Gospel:

Holy God, as we enter Passiontide today
help us to walk alongside our brothers and sisters
who are marginalised, and work with them
to transform unjust structures of society.

Merciful Father, …

‘But you know, death is
not the worst thing that
could happen to a Christian’

‘De Profundis’ (1943), the haunting Holocaust tour de force by Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), draws on Psalm 130: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord’

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 29 March 2020

The Fifth Sunday in Lent (Lent V), Passion Sunday

The Readings: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Lazarus is raised from the Dead … a fresco in the Analpsi Church in Georgioupoli on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

This Sunday is often known as Passion Sunday, marking the beginning of the two-week period of Passiontide.

In Passiontide, the crosses and images in churches were often covered from this Sunday until the end of Good Friday, building up our anticipation for the story of Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection.

In Passiontide, the Corona Virus or Covid-19 pandemic is creating communal angst that may well find a voice or resonances in the cry from the depths in Psalm 130 (De Profundis), and many people may worry that soon they are going to identify with Martha’s cry in our Gospel reading, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’ (John 11: 21).

These heart-breaking cries may be heard in the most uncomfortable situations over the coming weeks. Where are we going to find God’s presence in this crisis? Where are we going to offer hope? How are we going to show and share the love of Christ? For we know too that ‘Jesus wept.’

Our readings this morning offer hope in the midst of death, and the experiences of the Prophet Ezekiel, the Psalmist in De Profundis, the Apostle Paul in the New Testament reading, and Mary and Martha at their home in Bethany, offer hope to people who face the pains of life and death at this time.

In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel is among the people deported when Babylon captured Jerusalem in 598 BCE. But, despite this crisis, he believes God is faithful to his people.

In the dry valley, God shows Ezekiel a dry place filled with dry bones that are lifeless. But the contrast to the dead bones is the ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’ (ruach, רוּחַ) of God. God will renew the covenant, restore the people, and promises the resurrection of all at the end of time.

Psalm 130 is known as De Profundis, is a prayer for deliverance from personal trouble, but ends with a message to all people.

The psalm opens with a call to God in deep sorrow, from ‘out of the depths’ or ‘out of the deep,’ a graphic phrase signalling closeness to despair or death.

The psalmist makes the powerful and paradoxical point that God is to be held in awe not because he punishes but because he forgives. He is merciful by nature, his help is worth waiting for, as watchmen guarding a town:

O Israel, wait for the Lord,
for with the Lord there is mercy;
With him is plenteous redemption
and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins
.

In the New Testament reading, Saint Paul explains the difference between what he calls living in the Spirit and living according to the flesh. As Christians, we live in the Spirit and the Spirit lives in us. We are alive because of the Spirit, for God’s Spirit is in us, God will give us new life through the Spirit, and raise us to new life at the end of time.

The Gospel reading (John 11: 1-45) is one of the best-known passages in Saint John’s Gospel for a number of reasons:

1, In the Authorised Version or King James Bible, it contains what is popularly known as the shortest verse in the Bible: ‘Jesus wept’ (verse 35). Later translations fail to provide the same dramatic impact as these crisp, short two words, ‘Jesus wept.’

2, The command, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ has given rise to a number of childish, schoolboy jokes about athletic performance and not even winning a bronze medal. There is hardly the same potential in the NRSV’s: ‘Lazarus, come out!’

3, Lazarus himself is interesting. He is often confused with the Lazarus in Saint Luke’s Gospel, the poor man at the gate, the only character to be named in any of the parables.

The name Lazarus means ‘God helps,’ the Greek Λάζαρος (Lazaros) being derived from the Hebrew Eleazar, ‘God’s assistance,’ or: ‘God has helped.’ So, already, his name introduces us to an expectation of God’s help, God’s deliverance.

This story is the last – and the greatest – of the seven Signs in Saint John’s Gospel. This is the crowning miracle or Sign in Saint John’s Gospel. It provides the interpretation of the whole Gospel, it reveals Christ as the giver of life, holding together his two natures, his humanity and his divinity.

This reading also contains the fifth of the ‘I AM’ sayings: ‘I AM the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live’ (John 11: 25).

This seventh Sign holds together the two natures of Christ, his humanity and his divinity. The death, burial and shroud of Lazarus represent our own human plight. And the raising of Lazarus is a promise of the Resurrection of Christ and of our own resurrection.

Death was not the end for Lazarus … this time around. There is no further mention of him in the Bible. His first tomb in Bethany remains empty. But, of course, he had to die a second – and final – time.

Death comes to us all. We all end in the grave. No miracles, no wishing, no praying, can avoid that inevitability. So, what was wrong with the fact that Lazarus had died? That he was too young? We will all find when death comes that we are too young.

Perhaps what the Gospel writer is saying here, in a deep and profound way, is that death without the comfort of knowing the presence of Christ is distressing for anyone who seeks to be a follower of Christ.

In the Litany, we pray, ‘from dying unprepared, save us, good Lord’ (The Book of Common Prayer, p. 175). We should never forget the ways word and sacrament prepare those who are dying and those who mourn.

For we know that death is not the end. In his death, Christ breaks through the barriers of time and space, bringing life to those who are dead. Those who hear the voice of Christ live.

I once interviewed Archbishop Desmond Tutu and asked him about the death threats he faced in South Africa at the height of apartheid. He engaged me with that look that confirms his deep hope, commitment and faith, and said: ‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’

When Jesus looks up and says: ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me,’ the Greek conveys more of the prayerful action that is taking place: And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, <<Πάτερ, εὐχαριστῶ σοι>> (Páter, efcharisto soi, ‘Father, I am giving thanks to you’). Lifting up his eyes is a prayerful action in itself, and combined with his giving thanks to the Father has actions and words that convey Eucharistic resonances.

Comfort for the living, comfort for the dying and comfort for those who mourn.

In the Eucharist, we remember not just Christ’s passion and death, but also his Resurrection, and we look for his coming again.

Christ in his life points us to what it is to be truly human. In the grave, he proves he is truly human. He has died. He is dead. Yet, unlike Lazarus the beggar, he can bridge the gap between earth and heaven, even between hell and heaven. But, like Lazarus of Bethany, he too is raised from death not by human power but by the power of God.

‘But you know, death is not the worst thing that could happen to a Christian.’ We know this with confidence because of the death and resurrection of Christ. Death is not the end.

Let us give thanks to God for life, for death, and for the coming fulfilment of Christ’s promises, which is the hope of the Resurrection, our Easter faith.

‘Surely I am coming.’ Amen. Come Lord Jesus (Revelation 22: 20).

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Raising of Lazarus by Duccio di Buoninsegna (ca 1260-1318), Kimbell Art Museum

John 11: 1-45 (NRSVA):

1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ 4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ 5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, 6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7 Then after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’ 8 The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?’ 9 Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.’ 11 After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ 12 The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’ 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ 27 She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ 40 Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

‘The Lord … set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones’ (Ezekiel 37: 1) … the bones of the dead left behind in the charnal house beside the Basilica of the Panayia Pirgiotissa in the former Greek village of Levissi or Karmylassos, now the ghost town of Kayaköy in western Turkey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Violet (Lent, Year A).

Penitential Kyries (Passiontide and Holy Week):

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself and to one another.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ’s blood; for he is our peace.
(Ephesians 2: 17)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who, for the redemption of the world,
humbled himself to death on the cross;
that being lifted up from the earth,
he might draw all people to himself:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of hope,
in this Eucharist we have tasted
the promise of your heavenly banquet
and the richness of eternal life.
May we who bear witness to the death of your Son,
also proclaim the glory of his resurrection,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Blessing:

Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross
a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:

‘Mortal, can these bones live?’ (Ezekiel 37: 3) … skulls in the ossuary in Arkadi Monastery from a battle in 1866 during the Turkish occupation of Crete, when hundreds of people died (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Hymns:

293, Breathe on me, Breath of God (CD 18)
569, Hark, my soul, it is the Lord (CD 33)
310, Spirit of the living God (CD 18)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord’ (Psalm 130, ‘De Profundis’) … in the depths of a cave on the Greek island of Paxos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Praying through Lent with
USPG (33): 29 March 2020

Teffilin confiscated from Holocaust victims in a crate in a display in the Spanish Synagogue in Prague (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Today [29 March 2020] is the Fifth Sunday in Lent, still known among many as Passion Sunday. This morning, a united group service had been planned for the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, with a celebration of the Parish Eucharist at 11 a.m. in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

However, on the advice of the Bishop, all services have been cancelled for the past two weeks in these dioceses because of the Covic-19 or Corona Virus pandemic. This situation continues to be reviewed and monitored with the bishop and the archdeacons.

Meanwhile, during Lent this year, I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (29 March to 4 April 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary takes as its theme: ‘It is our duty to protect God’s Creation’ – Anglican Province of the Indian Ocean. This theme is introduced in the Prayer Diary this morning:

‘The Anglican Church in the Province of the Indian Ocean recognises the urgent need to mitigate the effects of climate change, stating emphatically that ‘it is our duty to protect God’s creation’.

‘Fisheries and marine tourism are the pillars of the Seychelles’ economy. While it is important that those activities continue along with sand mining and oil exploration in order to support the livelihoods of the Seychellois people, it is also important that these activities are carried out in a sustainable way.

‘USPG partners with the Province of the Indian Ocean in supporting the implementation of Indian strategic plan, which covers protection of the environment. In 2014, the island nation developed a marine spatial plan that covers its entire marine territory and holds a large mandate from marine protection to sustainable economic growth.

‘The Seychelles has committed 30 percent of its 1.35 million square km of waters to marine protection by 2020, ten years ahead of the United Nations 2030 target for Sustainable Development Goal no 14, known as the ‘life below water’ goal. Most of the work has already been accomplished, with only some four percent left for the Seychelles to reach the deadline.’

Sunday 29 March 2020: the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Passion Sunday):

Holy God, as we enter Passiontide today,
help us to walk alongside our brothers and sisters
who are marginalised, and work with them
to transform unjust structures of society.

Readings: Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

The Collect of the Day:

Most merciful God,
who by the death and resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
delivered and saved the world:
Grant that by faith in him who suffered on the cross,
we may triumph in the power of his victory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of hope,
in this Eucharist we have tasted
the promise of your heavenly banquet
and the richness of eternal life.
May we who bear witness to the death of your Son,
also proclaim the glory of his resurrection,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

‘De Profundis’ (1943), the haunting Holocaust tour de force by Arthur Szyk (1894-1951), draws on Psalm 130: ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord’

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

Saturday, 28 March 2020

10 places I would miss
if I could no longer
see or travel … (2) Spain

Work continues on La Sagrada Família … it is expected to be completed in 2026 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I know I have been moaning about how many of my travel plans have been cancelled for the foreseeable future.

But, if I should face several weeks in self-isolation, I shall spend that time wisely, praying and keeping in touch with people through social media. In addition, there is a lot of books to read, a lot of music to listen to, a lot of games of chess to play, movies to catch up on, and there is a promise to complete some of the writing projects that have been on the ‘back boiler’ for some time.

I shall dream too, and in particular dream of travel.

Matador, the global media travel platform, sent out an encouraging email last week, saying, ‘You may not be traveling now. But you will travel again.’

It went on to say, ‘There are few things that collectively unite the world. Coronavirus has pushed us into one such moment. No one will exit this time period unchanged or unaffected. And we must do our part in this pandemic to prioritise and value our fellow humans around the world.

‘We believe travel is an essential human experience. We believe travel is the ultimate education, with the power to open minds, change perspectives, and defeat ignorance, racism, and prejudice. But we also believe that traveling should be approached responsibly, and we can’t in good faith tell you to go out into the world at this moment.

‘What we can tell you is that the day to venture, explore, and wander will come. We are already hungry for the sights of far-flung destinations, the comforting sound of laughter contrasted by unfamiliar languages, and the weight of a passport in our pocket.

‘This will pass, but we hope your appreciation for people will not. In real-time, we are witnessing the resiliency and strength of the human spirit, from the singing balconies of Italy to the healthcare workers putting the needs of others ahead of their own.

‘For the foreseeable future, we encourage you to do your part. That means distancing yourself from others as much as possible. And in the meantime, we will do our best to inform and entertain you with our most inspiring stories and videos. Our goal over the coming weeks is to connect you to the destinations outside your four walls – because we want to get you back to doing what you love and exploring soon.

‘Travel will be waiting for you: and will welcome you back like the old friend it is.’

In liturgical and preaching resources I posted last week on another site, I looked at last Sunday’s Gospel reading – the story of the man who is blind from birth and who is healed (John 9: 1-41) – and asked readers, ‘What would you miss if you were blind?’

In answer to my own question, in solidarity with people living in countries that are now in total lockdown or facing that prospect, and in tune with the idea that ‘travel is the ultimate education, with the power to open minds, change perspectives, and defeat ignorance, racism, and prejudice,’ I plan over the next few days or weeks to repost photographs of ten favourite places in a variety of countries. I began with Italy last Saturday [21 March 2020], this evening I continue with Spain, and in days or weeks to come I hope to post photographs from Greece, England, Portugal and other places.

In part I have been inspired by a posting last Tuesday from Jewish Heritage Europe (JHE), headed, ‘Social distancing or lockdown got you stuck at home? Take a virtual tour of some of Italy’s gorgeous historic Jewish heritage sites!’

The beach at La Carihuela … but there is more to the Costa del Sol than beach holidays (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I began on Saturday with ten places in Italy I would miss in Italy if I could no longer travel or see. This evening I turn to Spain, another country in lockdown because of this pandemic.

When I first visited Spain, I had to get over two sets of prejudices: my images of Franco’s fascist Spain, and my own images of package-holiday Spain, created by Monty Python sketches about ‘terrible Torremolinos.’

But those images were taken apart on my first two visits to Spain: May Day in Madrid, and Holy Week and Easter in Málaga and La Carihuela, near Torremolinos.

I have been back to Spain regularly since, and last year I was there three times, including joining part of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Click on the images to view them in full-screen mode. If social isolation is extended, I may even broaden my horizons.

1, The Alhambra

The Lion Fountain at the heart of Alhambra (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

2, Barcelona:

La Sagrada Família is Barcelona’s most famous building and Antoni Gaudí’s best-loved work (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, Córdoba:

The Mezquita-Catedral or Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba is one of the most accomplished examples of Moorish architecture in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, Granada:

Flamenco buskers in a square in Granada … Andrés Segovia said Granada is ‘where the Lord put the seed of music in my soul’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

5, Málaga:

A fountain in front of the cathedral in Málaga (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

6, Mijas:

Climbing through the whitewashed, cobbled streets of Mijas (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

7, Santiago de Compostella:

The High Altar in the cathedral in Santiago … pilgrims on the Camino and visitors climb behind the altar to embrace the silver mantle of the 13th century statue of Saint James (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

8, Seville:

In Los Baños de Doña María de Padilla in the Alcázar in Seville (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

9, Valencia:

The City of Arts and Sciences, designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, is one of the ‘12 Treasures of Spain’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

10, Madrid:

Madrid has a rich architectural heritage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

La Casas de las Juderias in Seville is like no other hotel I have stayed in and is orth returning to for its own sake, no matter where it is. I have been back to Spain again and again in recent years, and have become intrigued too by the Spain that is Sefarád (ספרד).

I have found to my delight that there is more to Spain than a package holiday on the beaches of the Costa del Sol, and I would miss not seeing more of it, as well as revisiting many of the places I now treasure.

I am finding my way along the Sephardic trails and pilgrim routes in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Next: Portugal.

Praying through Lent with
USPG (32): 28 March 2020

A monument in Bologna commemorating victims of the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

I was supposed to be visiting the Church of the Province of Myanmar, the Anglican Church in Maynmar (Burma) this week on behalf of the Anglican mission agency USPG(United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The outbreak of Covid-19 or the Cornona virus pandemic meant that visit has been cancelled, and has also put an end to my alternative plan to visit Lichfield for these three days (26-29 March) for a self-directed retreat, following the daily services in Lichfield Cathedral or the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, which have been my spiritual home for almost half a century and have shaped my expressions of Anglican spirituality.

Still, throughout Lent this year, I am continuing to use the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

I am a trustee of USPG, the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (22-28 March 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on Pakistan, human rights, slavery and the churches in Myanmar and Morocco.

These themes were introduced in the Prayer Diary on Sunday by Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, Bishop of Peshawar Diocese and President Bishop, Church of Pakistan.

Saturday 28 March 2020:

Let us give thanks along with the congregation of Saint John the Evangelist Church in Casablanca, on the opening of their new church building today.

Readings: Jeremiah 11: 18-20; Psalm 7: 1-2, 8-10; John 7: 40-52.

The Collect of the Day:

Lord God
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters
and did not hide his face from shame:
Give us grace to endure the sufferings of this present time
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lichfield Cathedral … part of my planned self-guided retreat that has been postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection